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Constructed on a dry plain near Hat Creek in northern California, the
Berkeley-Illinois-Maryland Association (BIMA) array looks toward the
heavens at planets and comets, giant clouds of gas and dust, and stars and
JPEG Image (49K)
By studying the radio waves originating from these sources, astronomers can learn about their composition, structure, and motion.
Milky Way Galaxy in CO
To detect the incoming radio wave signals astronomers frequently combine
individual telescopes, commonly called dishes, into an array. Computers
integrate the signals from the dishes, enabling the array to function as
one large telescope.
JPEG Image (13.5K); Caption, Credit and Copyright
Arrays possess capabilities which extend beyond those of a single telescope. Not only can arrays correct for changes in the Earth's atmosphere that blur images; they can also resolve faraway objects in greater detail.
However, a mountain stands in the path of progress. A mountain of data. Raising the number of dishes can greatly increase the amount of data generated per run.
All this data must be stored or, better still, processed and turned into new knowledge. Managing the data presents a major computational challenge. In meeting this challenge, the BIMA array will serve as a prototype for much more extensive arrays being planned for the coming decades.
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